Electro‑Voice sound systems pump up the spinners at Zengo Cycle

October 16, 2014
It’s a safe bet that sound isn’t a top priority for the builders of retail space in the typical commercial building. So with quality audio being recognized as an increasingly important component of the overall environment in stores, restaurants, and other commercial locales, designers and installers are increasingly called on to coax top-notch performance from less-than-promising spaces. That’s the challenge faced by Nate Aiello, Systems Design Consultant at Chuck Levin’s Washington Music Center, when asked to design systems for Zengo Cycle, a chain of spinning (stationary bicycle) gyms in Washington D.C. and nearby suburbs. Despite the low ceilings and rectangular rooms, Aiello found a sweet spot by deploying a combination of Electro-Voice loudspeakers, amps, and digital processing.

Spinners use music to help push them to peak exertion, and they are led through their paces by an instructor speaking through a headset microphone. With loud music and an open mic in an enclosed, reflective space, the sound reinforcement design has to be just right to prevent feedback, avoid distortion, and ensure even coverage.

“I have heard numerous reports on how good it sounds, ”

“The fitness rooms are typically a low-ceiling rectangular build-out with the instructor centered along one of the longer walls,” Aiello explains. “There’s a long mirrored wall behind the instructor, and the cycles are spread out in front of her to the left and right. The program material in the classes can be anything from classic rock to high-energy electronic dance music, played at high output levels that can be extremely demanding. And each instructor uses their own source, like iPod or laptop, which all have different gain structures. Plus the instructors often get off of the bike to walk around the room and coach the cyclists while speaking through the mic.”

Aiello was brought in to design a system for this environment that could provide exceptional quality at reasonable cost. He worked on the project with Zengo’s owner, Marc Caputo, and Mike Wilson, principal of Bethesda Systems, a D.C.-area installer of AV, lighting, networking, and security systems.  “Mike consulted with me to design a system to suit the specific needs of spinning classes,” Aiello says. “I met with Mike and Mark at the studio to go over some ideas and map out a solution.”

“The key considerations,” Aiello continues, “were keeping the profile low, maximizing the tonal quality, and not directing the sound at any specific area. With the very low ceilings, the room being utilized lengthwise, and the close proximity of the speakers to the first row of bikers, I needed to get something to go as flush as possible to give me ample coverage with great gain before feedback.”

Aiello found what he was looking for with the Electro-Voice FRi-2082 dual 8-inch two-way full-range loudspeaker. “We ceiling-mounted four across the front line,” he says. “I picked them for their great coverage and the fact that they are very low profile, so the spinners can enjoy the experience without a speaker blasting in their face. I’ve used FRI boxes for many years and they continue to be my go-to box for close-proximity or fill applications. When it comes to intelligibility at a cost-effective price point, the FRi has it nailed solid.”

Aiello supplemented the front line with two ZX1i 8-inch two-way full-range indoor/outdoor loudspeakers with a 90-degree horizontal coverage pattern. The speakers are ceiling-mounted on either side of the instructor position and pointed perpendicular to the FRis. “The ZX1is have great intelligibility and an inexpensive price point,” he says. “The short, narrow throw makes them perfect to cover each side of the instructor.”

No workout music would be complete without powerful lows, so Aiello completed the Zengo system with a pair of EVID 12.1 12-inch surface-mount subwoofers. “The EVID 12.1s have great punchy low end,” he says, “and they couple neatly in the corner, which makes them ideal – even on the floor. The compact, punchy output works perfect in this room. We get a smooth low end without being overly bass-heavy.”

The system is powered by a total of three Electro-Voice CPS2.4 and CPS2.6 power amplifiers, which Aiello chose for their reliability based on the dozens he already has deployed in the field. Routing and EQ are handled by a DC-One 2-in/6-out sound system processor. “When the initial installation was complete,” Aiello says, “Mark was so happy that he told me I could upgrade or change anything I wanted. So I swapped in a DC-One instead of the ‘brand x’ processor, and it’s made a tremendous difference. I now have the right filters to optimize the speakers for superior sound quality, and crossover points to run to the subs. It’s just overall a really nice-sounding processor.”

Zengo Bethesda was the first location to be outfitted with an Electro-Voice system, followed by Zengo Logan Circle in D.C. “I have heard numerous reports on how good it sounds,” Aiello says. And he even got in a workout of his own to get the full flavor from the user’s perspective. “I have cycled there myself, and found it to be quite the experience,” he says. “There are plans right now for us to install similar EV systems for three new Zengo Cycle locations over the next few months.”

Zengo CycleChuck Levin’s Washington Music CenterBethesda Systems

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